A timely bonanza for seasonal shoppers
and New Year festive season is celebrated on a grand scale in Sri Lanka
not only by Christians and Buddhists, but also by people of other
religions. The beginning of a new year is the main reason for people to
celebrate the festive season on a grand scale and the long school
vacation is also another reason. Most people come to the city with their
children from distant areas to buy clothes and toys.
Almost all streets in the city of Colombo, especially Malwatta Street
is flooded with people who come to buy clothes and various other goods.
The First and Second Cross Streets in the Pettah are also full of
shoppers and even no enough room to walk freely. Thousands of people
including foreigners were also seen in the Fort area during the past few
The festive atmosphere has spread from Colombo to the suburban areas
of Borella, Maradana, Narahenpita, Nugegoda, Bambalapitiya, Wellawatta,
Mt. Lavinia and Kollupitiya. A large number of people could be seen
engaging in their last minute shopping.
Nugegoda, which is considered as a thickly populated town next to
Colombo has become the hub of Christmas and New Year shoppers. People
even complain that they cannot walk on the pavements due to wooden
stalls that have been temporarily erected by pavement hawkers with the
permission of Police only for the festive season.
The famous `Pamunuwa' at Maharagama which is very popular for cut
pieces, clothes and ready made garments are also flooded with people who
have come from all parts of the country. Over 1200 small and large
textile shops are open at Pamunuwa and almost all the shops are crowded
and people complain that there is not enough room even to select items.
to a shop owner, traders are coming to Pamunuwa even from the North to
buy cut pieces.
A senior officer , attached to the Maharagama Police said some
pavement hawkers at Pamunuwa are in the habit of selling items even on
the Colombo-Avissawella railway track which is running in close
proximity. He said this should be stopped forthwith for the benefit of
both hawkers and buyers. When inquired, a pavement hawker said they know
the time when trains pass and accordingly they do their usual business
on the railway track.
Customers usually buy their goods not only from pavement hawkers, but
also from large scale textile and ready made garment shops.
The Sunday Observer last week visited pavement hawkers in Colombo and
textile shops at Town Hall, Bambalapitiya, Kollupitiya , Maradana, Mt.
Lavinia and Wellawatta to see the development of their business
activities during this festive season.
A resident of Kandy, D.A. Wickramanayaka said he started
business on the pavement about 15 years ago and he sells clothes,
textile and ready made garments.
He said unlike in the past , pavement hawkers and other traders in
Colombo earn a large sum of money during this festive seasons due to a
large number of customers coming even from Northern areas.
He said in addition, the school vacation and the year end vacation of
Government and mercantile sector brings thousands of people to the city
during this festive season. Wickramanayaka also thanked the Government
and security forces for bringing the three decade old war to an end as
it paved the way for Northern citizens to visit Colombo without any
He said Pettah traders were also engaged in business without fear of
bombs as in the past.
A pavement hawker, Sarath Chandra thanked local authorities to
allow pavement hawkers to do business on pavements during this festive
He also thanked Police for the permission and the protection given
for pavement hawkers to carry out business on pavements even for a few
weeks. He urged Colombo Municipal authorities to allow pavement hawkers
to keep their huts at least until the end of January since the Police
have given the permission to do business on pavements only upto January
56 -year old pavement hawker, Raju Sinnadurai said he started the
textile business on pavements twenty years ago and he has been engaged
in the stock clearing business for the past ten years.
“Under the stock clearing system, we get ready made garment and other
textiles from businessmen in Pettah and also from importers in the Main
Street. Thereafter we sell them and settle their dues two days”.
He said most items, especially ready made garments and clothing
materials which are expensive in popular textile shops in Colombo and
outstations are sold on pavements at cheap prices.
He said it was the main reason that majority customers prefer to buy
things such as clothing materials, electrical goods and toys which are
sold on pavements rather than buying them from big shops.
A resident of Ganemulla and a pavement hawker at Second Cross
Street, 47 -year old Kamal Piyasena said he has been selling toy,
socks and hats on the pavement for the past 20 years.
He said pavement business is excellent for them rather than doing
business at the recent constructed shopping complex in the Pettah.
He proposed to the Colombo Municipal Council to allow pavement
hawkers to carry out their business on pavements not only during the
X'mas and New Year seasons, but also during the months of April and May,
in view of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year in April and the Vesak
festival in May.
A textile shop owner at Borella, Mark Fernando said he has a
shop and three stalls in Borella, Maradana and at the First Cross
“At least 70 percent locally produced ready made garments are sold by
me and I propose authorities to stop importing ready made garments at
least to a certain extent, since such imports badly affect to local
He said imported garments are sold at very low cost when compared to
local garments that are little expensive.
A businessman in First Cross Street, Mohamed Rafik said he has
been involved in pavement business for the past 15 years and unlike in
the past, their daily income was gradually reducing due to lack of
permanent places to carry out business activities.
He said although the newly constructed shopping complex at Bo-Tree
junction, Pettah is a better place for business activities, it is
difficult to have a good income for pavement hawkers rather than doing
He therefore, propose the authorities to allow pavement hawkers to
carry out their daily business on pavements during evenings from 4.00
A 43-year old pavement hawker, Piyasena Ranasinghe thanked
Minister Basil Rajapaksa to encourage people to do self-employment
activities inside vehicles and said the benefit of this system should be
passed even to pavement hawkers, so that they also could do business at
different places in the city rather than doing at the same place.
When inquired, a Police Constable who was on duty at Second Cross
Street said pavement hawkers have been given the time until April 8 to
do business on pavements and thereafter they will not be allowed to
carry out any business on pavements under any circumstances.